When is the last time you took time for you and cut work off completely? No emails, no phone calls, no speaking engagements, no “I will just put a few finishing touches on this project”, no thinking about work at all. For most of us, we probably can’t remember. Unfortunately, for me it took an act of God to make me take a break from work. I love my job and what I do, but everyone needs a break sometimes.
I didn’t know what to do. The doctor told me that I needed to have major surgery and that if I didn’t have it soon, I would take a risk of things getting worse and having an even more complicated case. I knew I had to have the surgery, but because the surgery I needed was not due to a life-threatening condition and I’d been managing the issue and much of the pain and discomfort associated with it for a while, I must admit, I put it off. I waited two months because I wanted to make sure that the surgery and recovery time fit into my schedule, my kids schedule, and yes – so it would have the least effect on my position at work. I wasn’t going to admit that I put everything in front of my own health, but I need to be transparent so that you know the whole story.
When I spoke to my HR rep about being out on leave and how long I’d be gone, I mentioned that I would keep up with my email and might even be able to get some projects that I’d put off for a while done. Her response – “Umm, Ebony, no one told you”? My mind started racing – told me what…what is the problem. She continued, “While you are out, we will shut all of your access down. You won’t have access to your email, you won’t have access to the buildings, your badge won’t even work”. As I sat in my office with my mouth hanging wide open, she continued to prepare me for the weeks to come. I didn’t hear much of what she said because she’d just thrown a wrench in my plan and I needed to figure out how to get around it, or did I?
After telling a few people that I was a little freaked out about losing my access to everything while on leave the common response was something to the effective of “good, you need a break – you really need to spend some time healing and focused on you, the company will be there when you get back”. I realized they were all right. I’d been working non-stop for a couple of decades. Yes, I would take a vacation, but there was always an email, a phone call, a project or something that needed just a little of my time while I was off. This time I decided to try something new. I left my superiors with a breakdown of what would happen in my absence, who I’d delegated things to, and assured them that things would be taken care of while I was out and then I left. I left work on June 9th around 7pm. I turned my work phone off and disconnected from my email. For seven weeks I had absolutely no interaction with work. I honestly didn’t know if my access had been shut down or not because I hadn’t tried to check.
What an amazing feeling. I had time to focus on reflection, perception and vision for me personally. It was truly inspiring. I hate that it took an act of God and my health being threatened for me to realize that I need to take time to focus on me. Now am I suggesting that you take a 7 week leave – no not at all – unless you can afford it and your job will let you, but that is highly unlikely. I am saying take 4 days, take a week and shut it all off. Not the week that the kids are off on spring break, not the week that you and your husband are going to spend running errands, not the week that they are coming to remodel your bathroom. A week just for you…a few days just for you. Refuse to check email, answer your work phone, work on anything work related. This time is all about you. Get a nice hotel room if you need to – don’t let your hotel room be a hospital room like I did for the first few days…really focus on you. You will return to work refreshed, renewed and ready to conquer the world!